Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Nave
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is located in the Yorkville section of Manhattan at 88th Street between First and Second Avenues. The church architecture is French Gothic style of the 13th century with beautiful stained glass windows by Henry Holiday and entrance doors designed by Karl Bitter.
According to the Holy Trinity website, three factors sparked the beginnings of the church over 100 years ago: Serena Rhinelander’s desire to create a memorial for her father and grandfather, the merger of the original Church of the Holy Trinity with Saint James Church, and the needs of Saint James Mission on East 83rd Street.
Serena Rhinelander’s grandfather William was one of the wealthiest men in New York. He purchased 72 acres of land between Third Avenue to the East River for a summer home in 1798. The Rinelanders sold most of the land, but Serena wanted a memorial to her father and grandfather and wanted to donate the midblock on 88th Street between First and Second Avenues.
Serena wanted to make the donation to Saint James Church on Madison Avenue. However, Saint James could not accept the offer because the church did not have the money to maintain the church. The original Church of the Holy Trinity came up with the maintenance money. The church was located at Madison Avenue and 42nd Street and wished to move from the business district and unite with Saint James Church.
The Diocese of New York transferred Holy Trinity’s assets from the sale of the property to Saint James, which enabled Saint James to retire its debt and assume sponsorship for Serena’s memorial by establishing an endowment fund. The Diocese also transferred the name of the church to the proposed new complex. Saint James also had a mission at East 83rd Street that was too small. The mission moved in 1897 to the first building on the 88th Street site, Saint Christopher’s House.
The Holy Trinity church complex is a parallelogram the equivalent of 11 full city blocks. J. Stewart Barney of Barney and Chapman was the architect. The layout of Holy Trinity is similar to Grace Mission at East 14th Street, which Barney designed for William Stewart, Serena’s nephew. The architecture is French Gothic style of the 13th century. The bell tower is 150 feet high. Construction on the church began in 1898.
Inside the church, Karl Bitter created the baptismal font. Bitter was an Austrian-born American sculptor best known for his architectural sculpture, memorials and residential work. Bitter also completed the East Doors and Tympanum of the church. His is a partial list of his work (from Wikipedia):
• Dr. William Pepper, College Hall, University of Pennsylvania, 1896. A replica of this is at the Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
• Louisiana Purchase Group – St. Louis Missouri, 1904
• Thomas Jefferson Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Missouri, 1913
• Louisiana Purchase Bronze, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Missouri, 1913
• General Franz Sigel – NYC, 1907
• Dr. James Burrill Angell Memorial – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1909
• Henry Tappen Memorial – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1912
• Carl Schurz Monument – Morningside Park, New York City, 1913
• Thomas Jefferson – University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1915
• Thomas Lowry Monument – Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1915
• Abundance for the Pulitzer Fountain, NYC (completed by Isidore Konti and Karl Gruppe), 1915
• Andrew Dickson White – Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 1915
• Depew Memorial Fountain – Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, completed by Alexander Stirling Calder, Indianapolis 1915
There are 17 stained glass windows created by Henry Holiday of London, all memorials to various members of the Rhinelander family. Holiday made all 17 except for the west window, which was completed by his daughter after his death. The windows are the only complete cycle of windows remaining by Holiday, and the church is one of a few churches in the world in which all windows are designed by one artist, according to church website.
Henry Holiday (1839-1927) was an English historical genre and landscape painter, stained glass designer, illustrator, and sculptor. He is considered to be a member of the Pre-Raphaelite school of art, according to Wikipedia.
Holiday was born in London and at age 15 was admitted to the Royal Academy. Through his friendship with several artists there, he was introduced to artists of the "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood". This movement was to be pivotal in his future artistic and political life. From Wikipedia: “The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. Its members believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite".”
In 1861, Holiday accepted the job of stained glass window designer for Powell's Glass Works. During his time there he fulfilled over 300 commissions, mostly for customers in the U.S. He left in 1891 to set up his own glass works in Hampstead, producing stained glass, mosaics, enamels and sacerdotal objects.
Holiday's stained glass work can be found all over Britain and some of his best is at Westminster Abbey according to Wikipedia.
In addition to his stained glass work, Holiday was a painter; his works include The Burgess of Calais, The Rhine Maiders, Dante and Beatrice. He was commissioned by Lewis Carroll to illustrate The Hunting of the Snark. He remained friends with the author throughout his life.
I attended a Holy Trinity Sunday service in February 2014. The atmosphere of the church is very friendly and inclusive with a nice sermon by Reverend Mark Collins. After the service, I introduced myself to Mark, who graciously gave me a tour of the church. He had to go to another event, but allowed me to take photos of the empty church, with instructions on how to get to the balcony.
I took Mark up on his offer to shoot from the balcony, which offered spectacular views. Using a tripod, I bracketed three exposures of the nave at 17mm (27mm with 1.6X crop factor) with my 17-55mm Canon lens, 100 ISO, f6.3, with exposures of 1/2 second (proper exposure), 1/8 second (2 stops underexposed), and 2 seconds (2 stops overexposed).
Bracketing exposures in churches is necessary because of the very uneven lighting; some areas of the church, particularly around windows, are very bright while other areas away from the windows are dark. Because of the great contrast in lighting, no single exposure captures what the human eye processes. The correctly exposed version was too dark in places and too light in others. The underexposed version was way too dark for most regions, but captured the bright windows nicely. On the other hand, the windows in the overexposed version were almost white with little color, with nice details for the darker areas of the church. Like Goldilocks, my task in post-production was to ensure that all of the areas were not too dark, not too light, but just right.
To accomplish this task, I generally turn to High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing. HDR is a digital photography processing technique in which multiple exposures of the same scene are layered and merged using image editing software such as Photomatix. The result is a print with a wider range of tonal values than what a digital camera can produce from a single exposure. Although HDR does a good job of averaging out the lighting in a contrasty image, I generally don't like the exaggerated definition resulting from the process. To mute the effect, I took the HDR image in Photoshop and copied the same properly exposed, non-HDR image on top. Adjusting the opacity slider gives me control in toning down the effect to create a more realistic portrayal. I liked the result with about 50% HDR image and 50% proper exposure non-HDR image. However, the bright windows were still too light and overexposed. I then copied the windows from the underexposed version that was generally too dark, but had just the right color and exposure in the windows. I pasted the window part and aligned with the appropriate window. Adjusting the opacity slider provided nicely exposed windows. Finishing touches included straightening and adjusting for the Keystone effect (non-parallel columns). The process took several hours, but I had a lot of fun. I spend less time on close-ups of stained glass windows as I generally use one underexposed image.
Church of the Holy Trinity services are at 8 am and 10:30 am Sundays.